One of the last things that I did before I started my Christmas vacation (everyone is off for 2 weeks) was to accompany Oscar (the driver) and Edith (my colleague) to a small out of the way community. It was another community that was really off the beaten track. We took some toys (balls, colouring books, crayons), a pinata and some cookies. This very poor community had asked ADES for help in creating a Christmas party. There is not sufficient money for basics, so there is not money for anything special at Christmas. What we delivered will be the special "Christmas" things for this community. So we set off to deliver a bit of Christmas joy. We were met, literally at the end of the road, by a couple adults and a few kids who picked up the stuff and hiked it into their community. This was so different than the Christmas deliveries I have done in Canada. There was, by comparison, just so little.
Today I am writing to you from Belize. It is a small country in Central America that is on the Atlantic Ocean side. I am a little vague on the details, although I know that the Spanish were here, at one point they got kicked out by the British and the natives and British kept the Spanish from coming back. As a result, Belize was a colony for many years and now is a Constitutional Monarchy like Canada.
I knew Belize was for me, when at the tiny airport there were lovely Christmas decorations and small reggae group playing Christmas music! Christmas is "bigger" here in Belize than El Salvador although significantly "smaller" than in Canada. All this week, I have enjoyed hearing Christmas tunes as I wonder the streets and shops of Belize City.
Belizians speak English, sort of. Walking down the street I understand less of the conversations going on around me than I do in El Salvador! The British brought in slaves from the Islands and the mixture of Caribbean cultures, with the Spanish, British and various indigenous groups has resulted in a "Creole" language that sounds little like the English I know! Most Belizians speak "proper" English, creole and many speak Spanish and tribal languages too.
Culturally Belize is more similar to Canada than El Salvador. I notice small things...like there are street signs (which there aren't in most of San Salvador) and the money is in different colours with pictures of the Queen! While there is crime and violence in Belize, it is not as significant as in El Salvador. I have been able to walk a lot during the days, which has been great for me. I feel like I have really had a vacation and a "break" from my regular life in El Salvador.
One of the highlights of my trip to Belize was the opportunity to worship at a Methodist Church. It is a large Church with an amazing organ. I was able to attend a festival of lessons and carols, where we sang a lot of familiar tunes...including an incredible candlelit version of Joy to the World! At one point I had another experience of awe and wonder where I looked around and thought who ever could have imagined that this white chick from Waterloo, ON would be at Christmas service in Wesley Methodist Church in Belize City, Belize. Wow, the experiences I've had on my adventure!
This year, I have chosen to be away from the people I love during the holiday. I wanted to have this experience once in my life...of being away, of being with others and of learning of Christmas celebrations in a different place. The Christmas story reminds us that although life does not always turn out the way we had hoped, (Mary likely never envisioned her life as being unwed and pregnant), amazing things can result from the unexpected. While I am not with you in person, know that my prayer (or hope if you prefer) for each of you is that you experience renewal during this Holy Season. Feliz Navidad - Merry Christmas my friends and family. Thank you for your support, caring and love this year.
|Wesley Methodist Church, Belize City|
|A Tapir - the National Animal of Belize|
|Bel-Can bridge in Belize City...A gift from the people of Canada!|
|View looking out to the Atlantic Ocean from Belize City|